Fighting MS-13 gang recruitment with youth programs

Nearly two dozen killings on Long Island last year are linked to MS-13. The brutal gang often targets children ages 11 to 15 for recruitment.

Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to target those kids with educational programs.

"MS-13 is a scourge all across the country," Cuomo said on WNYM/970 AM radio's The Cats Roundtable.

On Sunday, Cuomo announced an $11.5 million plan to enroll at-risk kids in social and educational programs. 

"The gang sells belonging, identity—a poor, cheap substitute for that family belonging," he said on WNYM. "We have to have an alternative that is a positive one."

The proposal includes $2 million for after-school programs to target part of Long Island that are deemed high-risk, $5 million for individualized vocational training, and $3 million for comprehensive case management for at-risk kids. 

DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, said the proposal would do a great job of getting through to young people before they even contemplate joining at gang. But it is just one piece to a very large puzzle.

"At the federal level, we have to do better at monitoring who is coming into the country, tracking them, providing resources for individuals," Gregory said.

This is not Cuomo's first push towards combatting MS-13. In April, the state started pouring law enforcement into the gang's strongholds in Long Island, including 25 state troopers to conduct patrols and undercover operations. 

This topic and others are expected to be discussed in Cuomo's State of the State address at the beginning of January.